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Defying picketers and audience disruptions, New York's Metropolitan Opera has opened "The Death of Klinghoffer," which explores the psyche of Palestinian hijackers who killed a wheelchair-bound US Jew.
Leading US composer John Adams operatized the 1985 seizure of the Achille Lauro cruise-liner as a way to explore the dueling grievances of Israelis and Palestinians. But "The Death of Klinghoffer" has outraged some Israel supporters who say it unduly humanizes murderers.
In an unusually tense display at the normally placid Lincoln Center, police stood guard in the lobby and set up barricades outside the entrance where picketers sat in wheelchairs in remembrance of Leon Klinghoffer, who was shot and thrown overboard by Palestinian hijackers demanding that Israel release prisoners.
The first act was briefly halted as an audience member repeatedly shouted, "The murder of Klinghoffer will never be forgiven!" Another person later yelled out a profanity and numerous spectators booed periodically during the opera, including when Mr Adams himself came out during the curtain call, which mostly drew applause and a standing ovation.
The Met's general manager Peter Gelb said he wanted to stage "The Death of Klinghoffer" because it was "one of the most powerful contemporary operas of the last 25 years" and insisted that the production clearly cast the killing as unjust.
"We will not allow this opera to be suppressed, since it is neither anti-Semitic nor a glorification of terrorism," he wrote in a note in the audience's playbill.